It’s All About Love

Is “It’s All About Love” really all about love? That’s funny, because what I thought it was all about was a scatter-brained writer/director being excessively odd while cameras are rolling.

That would be Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who co-wrote with Mogens Rukov this visually stimulating but content-challenged film set in New York in 2021. Like so many directors before and after him, Vinterberg has confused style with substance, or has perhaps thought enough cool ideas relieve him of his responsibility to TELL A STORY, for crying out loud.

Our hero and narrator, John (Joaquin Phoenix), intones early on, “I’d like to tell you about the last six days of my life.” Intriguing enough. It’s summertime, and bodies of unloved people — homeless folks and the like — litter the streets of New York, generally ignored by most people because it was being unloved that killed them in the first place. In Uganda, people are mysteriously losing control of their personal gravity and floating above the Earth. Occasionally, the entire world freezes for a few minutes. The world is strange; that’s what the movie keeps telling us.

John is being divorced by Elena (Claire Danes), a world-famous figure-skater. He is supposed to meet her at the airport during a layover for a quick signing of some documents, but she is delayed, can’t meet him, and has her people bring him into Manhattan instead. Soon she is seeing herself — yes, herself — in a hotel corridor, and John’s seeing the Doppelganger, too, and next thing you know, they’re running, though I am not exactly clear on what they’re running from. There’s a plot or a conspiracy, apparently, and it’s life-threatening, I guess.

Halfway through the film, I gave up taking legitimate notes and wrote this: “What a mess this film is!”

Throughout the film, Sean Penn, as John’s brother, is flying in an airplane, constantly. He used to be afraid of flying, until he took pills to relieve him of it — but he took too many, so now he’s afraid NOT to fly.

Oh, and for some reason, John and Elena are Polish, except a lot of times their accents aren’t.

It’s interesting that Vinterberg, a Dogme 95 director, has chosen to do such a non-Dogme project, and even more interesting that he gets so many technical things so right. Visually, there’s a lot to see, and without the just-the-basic constraints of Dogme, he’s able to do some imaginative things in the story, too. Maybe that’s the problem: When he’s not reined in, he gets TOO wild, spewing every fanciful thought he’s ever had onto the screen without regard to clarity or coherence. Whatever the cause, “It’s All About Love” is a mess, and after a while, messes become very dull to watch.

D+ (1 hr., 44 min.; R, some sexuality, some harsh profanity, some bloody violence.)